What is propylene glycol?

You Need To Know These Secrets About Propylene Glycol! What is Propylene Glycol? It’s a fancy sounding chemical compound but did you know: it’s in almost everything we use? From perfume to food additives, skin care, and even hair products, Propylene Glycol has become a common chemical compound in the manufacturing scene. And while it’s

You Need To Know These Secrets About Propylene Glycol!

What is Propylene Glycol? It’s a fancy sounding chemical compound but did you know: it’s in almost everything we use? From perfume to food additives, skin care, and even hair products, Propylene Glycol has become a common chemical compound in the manufacturing scene. And while it’s been seen as something generally safe, a new study has shown that Propylene Glycol is also one of the main components of antifreeze which is commonly put in cars to lower the freezing point of water and increase the boiling point!

So what exactly is Propylene Glycol and where is it from?

What is Propylene Glycol?

Propylene Glycol is a known synthetic food additive that has a viscous texture similar to syrup. It’s odorless and often times tasteless, which is why the majority of the food we have doesn’t have any weird chemical taste. Often times, Propylene Glycol has other names such as:

  •        1,2-dihydroxypropane
  •        1,2-propanediol
  •        Trimethyl glycol
  •        Methyl ethyl glycol
  •        PG12
  •        Methyl ethyl glycol (MEG)

So, if you see these terms on the ingredients then, you know your food contains a certain amount of Propylene Glycol. But why use Propylene Glycol? What exactly does Propylene Glycol do?

Uses of Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol has multiple uses and depending on where it’s used, the function also changes. Check out the list below of the many uses of Propylene Glycol.

1. Anti-Caking Effect

Propylene Glycol has an anti-caking effect on certain foods. Often times, people would use this effect for soups such as one’s Minestrone, Cream of Mushroom soup, and even cheese-based soups so that the liquid doesn’t clump up and look like disgusting pods of mush. It keeps them viscous and in liquid form, making it more edible instead of it having look like a concrete mix.

2. Antioxidant

Other uses of Propylene Glycol include antioxidants. Unlike our natural antioxidants such as Glutathione, L-Carnitine, Propylene Glycol is not the antioxidant in itself. Instead, it induces the activity within the organic material to create antioxidants in order to preserve the shelf life of certain food products.

3. Emulsifier

Ever wonder why your dressings don’t mix or separate into weird liquid substances? It’s because Propylene Glycol makes sure that the ingredients of your salad dressing don’t separate into some mushy mess. Propylene Glycol is also used to thicken and make ice cream look extra creamy. When its placed in a cup, it doesn’t melt as fast. Since Propylene Glycol lowers the freezing point of certain chemical compounds and increases the boiling point, that would explain why some ice creams are less prone to melting than artisanal ice creams which don’t use chemicals to keep them solid and not falling apart into mush.

Otherwise, ice cream and our salad dressings may not look as good as commercials make them out to be.

4. Stabilizer and Thickener

Propylene Glycol is an alginate which stabilizes the formation and structure of certain things such as the foam that forms on top of the beer. To give that foamy appearance, beer companies use Propylene Glycol due to its increased electrostatic interaction among the other molecules within the beer mixture. While keeping the form stabilized, it also prevents the harmful effects found in the lipid-like materials found in the beer foam.

5. Moisture Preserver

Moisture can make two bad things happen. Either, A: your item really dries out and it looks nothing more like a dried husk of what it originally was or B: it suddenly gets a lot of moss and mold which makes food look really disgusting. Propylene Glycol solves that by creating a stable amount of moisture so that food doesn’t rot as fast. Propylene Glycol often preserves the moisture of marshmallows, coconut flakes, and nuts.

Because of its ability to retain moisture, it also retains the flavor of processed products.

6. Solvent for Medicines

In the medical field, Propylene Glycol is used to make sure the medicine is absorbed well by the body. Often times, it’s one of the primary ingredients for any medicine be it topical, oral, or injection-based. It also served as a carrier for active ingredients in cough syrup and gel capsules. However, some studies have reported an issue that humans do have a toxicity level of Propylene Glycol but only due to excessive use.

7. Consistency of Cosmetic Products

Cosmetic products are a big industry, especially for women. Propylene Glycol was often used to keep cosmetic products soft and moist, making it easy to use. Products that use Propylene Glycol include deodorant sticks, shampoo, body lotion, sunscreen, lipstick, and certain face creams.

Toxicity of Propylene Glycol

Most people assume that because it has a fancy chemical name, it’s bound to be poisonous. However, studies have shown that Propylene Glycol has low toxicity and therefore it will take a large amount of Propylene Glycol to cause a toxicosis in a person. In fact, Propylene Glycol being the cause or the source of the toxin occurs under very unusual circumstances which are caused by constant intravenous injections of the former.

Effects of Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol can have a lot of risks if one overdoses. Or, if one does not have high amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase, one of the most important enzymes in breaking down Propylene Glycol. One of the effects include CNS Depression where the individual would have slowed movements, slower cognitive processes, and ultimately loses consciousness. Also, because Propylene Glycol provides products for the Citric Acid Cycle, it may cause a Lactic Acid build up.

Lactic Acid has multiple bad effects such as causing muscle pains or in the worse case scenario, acidosis where the body is unable to filter out all the acid or kidney failure. Often times, this occurs when the Propylene Glycol builds up in the blood which interferes with the proper functioning of the bodily systems. Which is why people who have liver and kidney problems are often given alternative medicines that do not contain Propylene Glycol.

But even if there is a case of toxicosis from Propylene Glycol, there are ways to treat it. One is through Hemodialysis where one’s body is flushed out of the toxins or stopping the medication that contains the Propylene Glycol.

So there you have it! The secrets you need to know about Propylene Glycol! Have any other secrets you know about Propylene Glycol? Let us know in the comment box below!

Sources:

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  • Yaucher, N. E., Fish, J. T., Smith, H. W., & Wells, J. A. (2003). Propylene glycol‐associated renal toxicity from lorazepam infusion. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy, 23(9), 1094-1099.
  • Fruijtier-Pölloth, C. (2005). Safety assessment on polyethylene glycols (PEGs) and their derivatives as used in cosmetic products. Toxicology, 214(1-2), 1-38.
  • Simonnet, J. T., Sonneville, O., & Legret, S. (2002). U.S. Patent No. 6,464,990. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Chen, X., Lu, X. Z., Gao, Y., Shi, X. C., & Yu, W. G. (2004). Molecular mechanisms of antioxidant effects of propylene glycol mannate sulfate. Yao xue xue bao= Acta pharmaceutica Sinica, 39(1), 13-16.
  • Chiffelle, T. L., & Putt, F. A. (1951). Propylene and ethylene glycol as solvents for Sudan IV and Sudan black B. Stain technology, 26(1), 51-56.
  • Hu, Z., & Denick, J. (1998). U.S. Patent No. 5,800,807. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Jackson, G., Roberts, R. T., & Wainwright, T. (1980). Mechanism of beer foam stabilization by propylene glycol alginate. Journal of the Institute of Brewing, 86(1), 34-37.

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